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LCQ 6: Construction of waste treatment facilities

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Kwok-hing and a reply by the Acting Secretary for the Environment, Dr Kitty Poon, in the Legislative Council today (January 19):


     Given that the capacity of the three landfills in Hong Kong will be exhausted one by one in the next few years, the authorities decided last year to construct, at a cost of over $5.1 billion, Hong Kong's first sludge treatment plant at Tsang Tsui in Tuen Mun for treating sludge generated by the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme, in order to properly treat several thousand tonnes of waste in Hong Kong each day. Recently, the Environment Bureau has also intended to construct Integrated Waste Management Facilities (IWMF) with advanced incineration as the core technology at Tuen Mun in New Territories West or Shek Kwu Chau to the south of Lantau Island so as to alleviate the pressure on the landfills. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that when the Environment Bureau applied for funds in 2009 for the construction of the incineration facility at Tsang Tsui in Tuen Mun for the treatment of sludge, it had undertaken to actively follow up the 10 compensatory measures proposed by Tuen Mun District Council to improve the image and development of Tuen Mun, of the present progress; whether there is a timetable for the progress of improvement; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) of the present progress of the plan to construct IWMF at Tsang Tsui in Tuen Mun or Shek Kwu Chau; whether the environmental impact assessment reports have been completed; if so, when the outcome will be published; if not, when the reports will be completed; the views received by the Government in its consultation with the relevant District Councils (DCs) and local residents on the matters; whether it will first obtain the support of the relevant DCs before making its final decision on the choice of the site; and

(c) whether the Government has a set of fair, just and open standards in determining the site of the incineration facility; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; given that New Territories West, particularly Tuen Mun, has already taken the lead in undertaking social responsibility for Hong Kong by not objecting to the construction of Hong Kong's first sludge incineration facility in the district, yet the Government will still construct another incineration facility there, whether the authorities have considered, during the assessment process, if such an act is fair; apart from the incineration facility to be constructed under the plan, whether the authorities have assessed if there is the need to construct more incineration facilities for waste treatment; if they have, of the assessment criteria and details?


(a) In response to the concerns of Tuen Mun District Council (DC) over the Government's proposed sludge treatment facility, the Environment Bureau set up in March 2009 the Tuen Mun Development Liaison Working Group comprising representatives from relevant policy bureaux and departments as well as TMDC Councillors to discuss and examine the opportunities of overall development for Tuen Mun. Tuen Mun DC also put forward 10 proposals to improve the image and development of Tuen Mun.  The Working Group has so far held six meetings.

     The 10 proposals of Tuen Mun DC are of different nature. Some of them are major long term infrastructure projects which require careful and thorough study, such as a rail connecting Tuen Mun and Tsuen Wan.  While a decision cannot be made in the short term, the Government has responded positively by including the proposal in the scope of review and update of the Railway Development Strategy 2000. Upon the approval of funding by the Finance Committee of this Council, the study will commence in the second quarter of 2011.

     Separately, the Government has responded actively to the implementation of some of the proposals on medium and short term improvement measures. For example, the construction of an air quality monitoring station in Tuen Mun is scheduled to begin in 2011. The study of the Greening Master Plan for Tuen Mun will commence in the second quarter of 2011. The Home Affairs Department has co-ordinated with relevant Government departments in launching the Tuen Mun River Beautification Project for greening and enhancing the environment in Tuen Mun. The Government has also decided in-principle not to develop a crematorium in Tuen Mun Area 46. Instead, part of the Tsang Tsui Ash Lagoon next to Black Point Power Station in Tuen Mun has been tentatively selected for the development of a columbarium. The proposal has gained in-principle support from the Tuen Mun DC. The Government is actively carrying out a technical feasibility study for this. When the proposed site is confirmed to be a suitable zone for the development of columbarium in the Outline Zoning Plan, the use of Tuen Mun Area 46 for the development of crematoria and columbaria will be removed from the respective Outline Zoning Plan.

(b) The Engineering Investigation (EI) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Studies on two potential sites for the Integrated Waste Management Facilities (IWMF) at Tsang Tsui and an artificial island adjacent to Shek Kwu Chau will be completed in the first quarter of 2011. Public views on the EIA reports will be sought under the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance, during which we will discuss the EIA reports and site selection with stakeholders, including the relevant District Councils (DCs), with a view to developing the first IWMF in Hong Kong as soon as possible.

     We have been in contact with the DCs concerned and local residents on the proposed IWMF.  For instance, from February to May 2008, we briefed Tuen Mun DC and Islands DC on the Site Selection Report.  In 2009, we made a study visit to Tokyo and Osaka with 26 Councillors of Tuen Mun DC and Islands DC to see how waste and sludge were treated with advanced incineration technologies in Japan. In the recent discussion about the disposal of municipal solid waste triggered by the extension of the Tseung Kwan O Landfill, we have noted that the public generally recognise that Hong Kong must change its current sole reliance on landfill for waste disposal and need to adopt modern incineration or other effective advanced technologies to treat the non-recyclable waste.

(c) The Government has drawn up a comprehensive strategy and specific implementation proposals to tackle the current waste treatment problem in Hong Kong. The proposals include a number of measures to reduce waste at source. They will be implemented in parallel with the provision of modern waste treatment facilities and extension of landfills to solve the urgent waste problem with a multi-pronged approach.

     We have conducted a detailed site selection study on the construction of modern incineration facilities, and a comprehensive and objective EIA is underway. The process is highly transparent and open.  Specifically, in 2007-2008 we conducted the detailed site selection study to identify potential sites throughout Hong Kong for developing the IWMF. The assessment covered factors such as environment, ecology, planning, transport, technology/engineering works, financial viability and community.  We identified suitable sites across Hong Kong and, having considered all the factors, selected Tsang Tsui in Tuen Mun and the artificial island adjacent to Shek Kwu Chau for further consideration. In 2008, we briefed the Legislative Council, the relevant DCs and the Advisory Council on the Environment on the Site Selection Report and explained to them in detail the proposed treatment technologies and emission standards. At present, we are conducting detailed EI and EIA studies on these two potential sites by objective standards.  The assessment covers environmental impacts (such as noise, air quality, water quality, ecology and landscape), engineering works (such as site formation and reclamation, geology and wastewater treatment), transportation of waste and ash, construction period, expenses and costs.

     The first IWMF is estimated to have a capacity of treating 3,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste per day. We plan to seek funding approval from this Council in early 2012. Subject to the final outcome of site selection, the IWMF is expected to be completed for commissioning in 2016 or 2018, alleviating considerably the pressure on landfills. When the planning of the first IWMF reaches a more mature stage, subject to the effectiveness of the waste reduction measures, we will conduct a study on a second IWMF.

Ends/Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:36


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